Social networking can be used for both social and professional purposes. It can include posting commentary on online newspaper and magazine articles or videos and television shows; participation on listservs (a program that distributes emails to those who subscribe); and writing web logs (“blogs”). Social media itself is simply the technology and the platforms that turn communication or commentary into online dialogue.
So what’s the draw?
Social media allows the user to add brand value and is an inexpensive way to promote you and your law firm and generate new clients. Sharing news online about firm accomplishments and volunteer involvement helps build a sense of community – people want to hire firms they know and trust. Online media establishes your area of knowledge or skill through posting blogs, tweets, articles of interest and legislative updates or court decisions.
How do you ensure your online presence is visible and reaching your target audience?
It’s all about building connections. LinkedIn is more about business networking and less about social interaction. It’s a multi-tiered concept of contacts (or “connections”), where you maintain a list of business contacts and have the option of interacting with the list of people with whom they are connected. They become your extended contacts and you build a chain of professional connections.
Facebook allows you to connect online personally or professionally without limiting the amount of online interaction with its users. Similar to LinkedIn, on Facebook you can establish and maintain a list of “friends” and interact with them. Your law firm can create a business page that will automatically notify people who “like” them about any important updates, new publications or blogs.
Twitter is slightly different in that it is designed to distribute to your “followers” (those who have subscribed to your account) real-time information in the form of “Tweets” limited to 140 characters. These micro-blogs can link out to other websites, including that of your law firm. Before delving into the social media world, here are some things to consider: be mindful of your solicitor-client relationship, and your ethical duties surrounding confidentiality and conflicts of interest. Take steps to avoid the possibility of inadvertently creating a solicitor-client relationship that could give rise to possible professional liability concerns.
Create a social networking policy to educate your employees on acceptable internet usage, and establish parameters that will guide their online activity. Your policy should include the following (this list is non-exhaustive):
- the scope of your policy;
- a designated person to answer questions about the policy and be responsible for its application and compliance;
- standards to ensure that client and firm confidences are maintained;
- protection of contact information; and
- guidance on permissible content including whether or not you wish to allow staff to provide legal advice in this forum.
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If you have any questions on these, or any other risk- or practice-related matters, do not hesitate to contact the Risk and Practice Management Program at [email protected] or call the Lawyers’ Insurance Association of Nova Scotia at 902 423 1300.